Favorite odds and ends from today's news:
A NYT story on passalong pr (my term). It goes like this. Coal producers and power companies have a trade group that hires a lobbying firm that hires a different lobbying firm that has a brainiac staffer who sends fake letters to lawmakers pretending that they're from nonprofit groups opposed to climate change laws. The brainiac gets fired, we're told, thus absolving anyone else of responsibility. So you pr guys out there, remember to hire someone to hire someone who then gets some low-level schmuck to fake stuff and then fall on his or her sword. Plausible deniability is a wonderful thing, especially when you make stuff up in order to persuade people.
More PR -- Kinda
PR, or lobbying, or trying to influence opinion, whatever it's called there's also a good story about pharmaceutical company hiring ghostwriters to gin up fake research reviews to say good things about their hormone replacement therapy. This is about as bad as it gets in academe, faking research or at least faking a review of the research. It came out as part of a lawsuit.
Third Person Effect and Driving While Yakking
Summit coming soon on driving while distracted, the new phrase to describe talking or texting on that annoying cell phone while trying not to kill someone while driving.
So how the heck do I work the third-person effect in all this? First, a brief definition: The third-person effect means we think media content doesn't affect us, but it does affect others. In a way this is reported in a story today about the potential of new laws aimed to stopping people from driving while, yup, distracted. Deep in the story, a survey by AAA that found "58 percent of drivers consider other motorists talking on a cellphone to be a very serious threat" and 87 percent think texting is dangerous. But ... and here's the third-person ... 67 percent said they had yakked on a phone while driving, and 21 percent had texted. Sheesh. To summarize, do as I say, not as I do.
A Story NOT from the NYTimes
Okay, the stuff above was drawn from today's NYTimes so I feel obligated to draw something from another source just so I can pretend I'm a balanced, reasoned, Renaissance kind of guy. In this one, it kinda sums up the military's relationship with social networking. This piece here says that while the Marines have banned Twitter and Facebook and other sites for one year, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs will continue to Tweet, thank you very much. Wall Street Journal version here. Below, a video version of the story: